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Bowling Alone 2012
April 13, 2012 8:08 AM   Subscribe

Is Facebook Making Us Lonely? The Atlantic discusses how social media blurs the line between solitude and connectedness, destroying both in the process.
posted by modernserf (88 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?

I smell a country song being born.
posted by jonmc at 8:15 AM on April 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


How many times can The Atlantic write the same damn article?
posted by downing street memo at 8:15 AM on April 13, 2012 [34 favorites]


Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?

I smell a country song being born.
posted by jonmc at 11:15 AM on April 13 [+] [!]


You got to know when to tweet'em, know when to like'em,
Know when to click ignore, know when to run.
You never count your friends when you're sittin' at the laptop,
There'll be time enough for countin' when the bloggin's done.
posted by Fizz at 8:17 AM on April 13, 2012 [24 favorites]


Because, you see, it's "social" media, wouldn't it be ironic and contrarian if it made us lonlier??
posted by downing street memo at 8:18 AM on April 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?
Absolutely not!
I've met so many others who, like me, don't give a crap about Facebook!
posted by Thorzdad at 8:24 AM on April 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


There is that weird sensation when you encounter IRL acquaintances (possibly old acquaintances from college) from Facebook who don't really want to interact IRL.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:25 AM on April 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Absolutely not! I've met so many others who, like me, don't give a crap about Facebook!

In person! What's that like?
posted by Fizz at 8:25 AM on April 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sure the topic isn't new ground, but I thought the piece was pretty nuanced and thoughtful.
posted by naju at 8:25 AM on April 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


destroying both in the process.

I'm tired of this kind of apocalyptic analysis. It's probably effective at getting internet traffic since people are drawn to extreme hypotheses, but it seems counterproductive to sit around coming up with theories for why society is going to hell. (By the way, people always say society is going to hell -- they were saying it long before the internet.) The internet and social media are probably here to stay. Instead of listing what's so horrible about them, let's focus on ways to use them better.

The people who write these articles seem like they're depressed and trying to rationalize their depression. Maybe social media is fine, and these authors just need therapy.
posted by John Cohen at 8:25 AM on April 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


Oh thank goodness, at last somebody is asking this important and novel question
posted by ominous_paws at 8:26 AM on April 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was lonely, sometimes, before facebook. I was lonely, sometimes, when I was actively participating in facebook. I'm lonely, sometimes, now that I'm deliberately neglecting facebook.

But mostly, I kind of wish people would sod off. So maybe it's just me.
posted by gauche at 8:27 AM on April 13, 2012 [16 favorites]


You picked a fine time to tweet me Lucille....no.....I'm on the web again, so glad to be on the web again...ok, I got nuthin'
posted by jonmc at 8:28 AM on April 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Doomsaying and social networking are both massive pageview drivers, combining the two with some tenuous bullshit is something every news organisation does to make some cash. See also: celebrities, Twitter, what celebrities said on Twitter.
posted by a debt owed at 8:28 AM on April 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


In person! What's that like?
Louder. But with more beer.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:29 AM on April 13, 2012


The people who write these articles seem like they're depressed and trying to rationalize their depression. Maybe social media is fine, and these authors just need therapy.

It's not the authors, it's the editors. Authors will pitch whatever angle they know or think an editor at a particular magazine/entity will view favorably. Certain things sell...like someone mentioned above. Authors will write what will sell, and editors will tweak even further to match their market.
posted by spicynuts at 8:35 AM on April 13, 2012




It's a good article, not sure why all the snarky cynicism. All I can think is it hits too close to home for some people so they psychologically attack the messenger.
posted by stbalbach at 8:39 AM on April 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm always torn by these kinds of articles. They have the same hacky features every time: a Scary Question, to which the answer is always "no, not really"; an opening anecdote that relates meaningfully to the actual content of the story but plays ridiculously into the editorial sensationalism (Facebook KILLED Yvette Vickers!) and pull quotes from experts (like Jaron Lanier and Sherry Turkle) who are desperate to recapture the relevance they had 15 years ago.

Yet, there is something to it all. Facebook isn't making anyone lonelier, but it can mask real loneliness in an unhealthy way. I have something like a hundred facebook friends, which is a fairly low and manageable number but even among them, I was only able to find seven people that I don't see regularly that I'd actually want to correspond with every couple of weeks.

I think the real story here is that social media has implicitly told us that their technology would make sure that we were never lonely again, but it's not working -- it's not a magic bullet. While I joked in the title that this was a rehash of "Bowling Alone" (which is cited in the article) its actually more of a "where are my flying cars?!" story.

...he said, to a message board.
posted by modernserf at 8:39 AM on April 13, 2012 [30 favorites]


Jeff Jarvis has the right of this:

"Is The Atlantic Making Us Chumps?

Granted, the headline on The Atlantic's screed against the social net and Facebook is worse than the text: "Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?" It's a link-baiting sequel to its "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" and each is pure tabloid, not what I would have expected of this magazine.

But the story is hardly nuanced, either. See:

"Yet within this world of instant and absolute communication, unbounded by limits of time or space, we suffer from unprecedented alienation. We have never been more detached from one another, or lonelier. In a world consumed by ever more novel modes of socializing, we have less and less actual society. We live in an accelerating contradiction: the more connected we become, the lonelier we are. "

Oh, come now. We "suffer from unprecedented alienation"? Says who? How much? Why? None of that is answerable.

Now, of course, in my book, Public Parts, I too came to broad opinions from our behavior online. I said that we are connected to more people in more ways. I think that's good and I argue why. Stephen Marche, author of the Atlantic piece, disagrees. And that's fine.

But I don't find malignant pathology in the behavior of 845 million people and more than half of this country. I also argue that we don't yet know the full impact of this technology on us and our norms and society. I certainly don't think that in a half-dozen years we could all get screwed up in the head from a web site. Though Marche salutes the flag of correlation-v-causation, he still, it seems to me, blames technology for our allegedly new neurosis. And I fear those who blame technology for unproven ills for I am afraid that will be used to regulate that technology. That's what I argue against in Public Parts.

Reading this also made me very happy that I used footnotes, for I am very frustrated by Marche's lack of usable citations: "this study" without identity is ungenerous to the study and to the reader wishing to find its context.

But why don't you read the piece with the citation/link below and let me know what you think? Doing so would be a social act, I think: a connection among people, something I celebrate. I don't think this makes us lonelier. Do you?"
posted by jaduncan at 8:42 AM on April 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


I will enter into the semi-boring (because it IS frequently brought up) but I think based-in-truth debate.

Facebook can definitely make you feel lonelier- it's like constantly looking at other people's holiday and birthday snapshots- their happiest times posted for everyone to see. Except daily.

The trick is to have friends whose lives you don't envy- that way it can't make you feel worse. Which works out okay because usually people with tremendously interesting lives aren't constantly stopping to update their facebook pages.

Which is good because then boring people like me would feel even worse!
posted by bquarters at 8:42 AM on April 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I said that we are connected to more people in more ways. I think that's good and I argue why. Stephen Marche, author of the Atlantic piece, disagrees. And that's fine.

But I don't find malignant pathology in the behavior of 845 million people and more than half of this country. I also argue that we don't yet know the full impact of this technology on us and our norms and society


Ready Player One.
posted by Fizz at 8:45 AM on April 13, 2012


This isn't a new observation but Christ, I fear for the state of future media. Print media is dying rapidly, its greatest organisations are fading away. The New York Times is one of the most reputable, respected papers in the world and it needs to be propped up by a Mexican billionaire. Tabloids are ruling the roost, deliberately biased reporting is considered normal, fact-checking is now considered exceptional, investigative journalism is chronically underfunded. The Internet was heralded as a revolution in the spreading of knowledge; an invention that would create a truly informed generation. Instead legitimate organisations are rotting while the Daily Mail prints money with its insightful, inquisitive pieces on "Gordon Ramsey Sex Dwarf Eaten By Badger" or some dumb hat a celebrity wore.

That's the saddest thing about the Internet. We now have all the tools and methods we need to get a full picture, to inform ourselves and fully grasp the situation. But it hasn't changed anything. It's no longer that people can't find the information: it's that they don't want to.
posted by a debt owed at 8:45 AM on April 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


People like Yvette Vickers died alone before Facebook. She was probably glad as long as she was alive that she had some way to reach out to people and communicate, if she felt like it, instead of not even having the option. When I'm not up to going out, I'm certainly glad for the opportunities I have to interact online.
posted by immlass at 8:49 AM on April 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's no longer that people can't find the information: it's that they don't want to.

It's just take the illusion away of false conciousness in many respects. We thought that if people knew, if they only knew what was going on, things would be right and just. That assumption is gone, now we know the majority of people don't give a shit.

Apathy is a lot harder to solve than ignorance. It also leads to some of the hyperbole we see in pieces like this, and the Kony viral video. We have to metaphorically shout to be heard above the din. And by doing so we raise the noise level in the room, making it all the more harder to be heard next time.
posted by zabuni at 8:51 AM on April 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


As I'm approaching my 30s I'm finding my facebook feed exclusively flooded with pictures of adorable babies, happy families and exotic locales. Maybe one or two dozen out of the 350 people I'm friends with are engaging with anything interesting or conversation-worthy in their updates. I have a pretty great life but facebook feels like a constant reminder of how disconnected I am from everyone who's moving on with their lives and making lasting relationships and doing meaningful things. When people get divorced you never even know. When bad things happen they're conspicuously absent. It does make me feel slightly worse when everyone's life is shiny except mine (and of course, everyone else is thinking that too, including the people I'm led to believe have great lives.)

Facebook encourages everyone to be fake. Maybe it's just the people in my network, but there's an awful lot of thinly-veiled bragging about how great your life is. And then there's the constant background worry about employers and other important people reading less-than-savory things you write. There's very little meat on these bones.

Twitter is the opposite for me - real connections and friendships being formed, even with strangers, and no pretense of bragging. There's no envy response kicking in when I check my feed, just interesting people saying and linking to interesting things, being hilarious and unfiltered. As far as feeling lonely, it's the anti-Facebook.
posted by naju at 8:54 AM on April 13, 2012 [20 favorites]


It's ironic to find so many people disagreeing with a well argued long-form article on the disconnectedness and loneliness of online life - by spending down some of their finite time on earth posting shallow, snarky pseudonymous comments on a public web forum to be read mostly by faceless strangers
posted by crayz at 8:57 AM on April 13, 2012 [15 favorites]


I don't know if I'm unusual in this, but I don't view 'facebook friends' as, well, friends, but rather as 'people in my address book'. So, folks to whom I might send an annual holiday card, but not the folks who I'm going to call up and say "hey, let's go hang out RIGHT NOW."

I suspect if it was termed 'contacts' or 'people who are linked to you somehow socially' rather than 'friends', there might not be so much expectation linked to it. maybe.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:58 AM on April 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


That assumption is gone, now we know the majority of people don't give a shit.

That's certainly one way of looking at. Another might be that we're learning how to deal with a new level of human interaction and people just aren't comfortable with making the next step. Sometimes I would be happy if people I knew just showed up at the door unannounced. Other times I would not. So no one ever shows up at the door. That would be a nice problem for social sites to solve.
posted by yerfatma at 9:02 AM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I smell a country song being born.

"Do you love like me my comments, do you want to be my friend?
Check yes or no."

Note: original song written about third-graders.
posted by drlith at 9:06 AM on April 13, 2012


I enjoy the things the essay posits as surprising. My favorites are:

1: Marriages can be lonely if spouses don't confide in one another and communicate. A surprising finding!

2: Facebook has given us the revelation--by no means a minor revelation, this is at minimum a normal-sized revelation!--that a simple social connection isn't the same thing as a bond. Thousands and thousands of years of human existence, and this was never revealed until Facebook.

3: Surprising recent findings that rain is wet and that while fire is a powerful tool, it can also be dangerous.

Okay, that last one wasn't in there, but I think it probably got removed for length considerations.
posted by Drastic at 9:10 AM on April 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


Less Atlantic, more Baffler: "The Atlantic’s soothing IV drip of frictionless, borderless, culturally agnostic thought-output plays a useful scrambling role in the context of unmitigated national crisis."
posted by mc2000 at 9:11 AM on April 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


Hey guys, what's going on in here?
I was just bowling alone, and I couldnt help but notice this thread.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 9:12 AM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


As an introvert, I find Facebook enervating. I had upwards of 200 "friends" at one point, — partially because my job told me I had to in order to pimp articles about enterprise networking hardware — but I burned my account down as far as I could manage and still honor some consulting and work obligations (that no longer involve trying to get the Tea Partier from high school to read about Cisco's router offerings). Once I was down to zero IRL friends, I re-added a few. But now that I don't have that many Facebook friends, I don't visit that often and that's fine, too. It seems to mostly exist as a way for my mom to tell me it's my turn in Words With Friends, which I don't play on the Web ... I play from my iPad.

Facebook does make me feel more disconnected and lonely, because some very good friends I would love to spend hours and hours with IRL are different creatures on Facebook, and they treat me differently because they're always playing to the room now. The constant self-promotional tone makes me sad. It's like being trapped in a room with a fake-friendly HR glad-hander.

Worse, considering my age cohort, Facebook is the first time electronic communication has ever really clicked for some of them, so the long and thoughtful email correspondence we used to share is gone now. They never liked email but lived with it, now they have Facebook and that's how they care to interact with everybody. That also makes me feel sort of sad and alone. They're completely pumped about something that does what we already had, but Facebook's easier. I get that, and this will sound grandiose, but it feels sort of like Moses not getting to go into Canaan: The promised land for everybody else re: 'net-enabled connectivity didn't turn out to be Usenet, Citadel, plain old email or even WordPress. It turned out to be Facebook.

My wife is more of an extrovert and she has none of these issues. Facebook energizes her. It may be the only app besides Bejeweled and her meditation timer that's on the home screen of her iPhone. It's her first stop when she cracks open her laptop in the evening. It's her first visit over coffee in the morning. The self-promoting tone people affect doesn't bother her, and neither does being friends with people she'd prefer to avoid IRL.

I'd rather this article had been written in a way that the likes of Jeff Jarvis would have had less room to yell "cite! cite!" In my experience, Facebook is alienating and isolating. In my wife's experience, it is not. Others I have talked to have reported experiences more like mine, yet others have reported experiences more like my wife's.
posted by mph at 9:20 AM on April 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


1837: Is the Telegraph destroying meaningful interpersonal relationships?
1870s: Is the Telephone destroying meaningful interpersonal relationships?
1920s: Is Radio destroying meaningful interpersonal relationships?
1940s: Is TV destroying meaningful interpersonal relationships?
1990s: Are E-mail and the World Wide Web destroying meaningful interpersonal relationships?
2010s: Is Facebook destroying meaningfgul interpersonal relationships?
posted by usonian at 9:24 AM on April 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


Is the Internet killing reasonable journalism?
posted by Apocryphon at 9:24 AM on April 13, 2012


Had a conversation last night with a professional coach about social networks -- specifically Facebook and LinkedIn. The thought was that these social networks are making it much harder to break off relationships with people.

There is only so much time and attention to be distributed. With the rise of 'easy' communciation comes a double-edged sword. The broadcast model makes it very easy to create loose affiliations and also maintain a larger number of connections.

Conversely, it makes it more difficult -- and potentially more personal -- to break off relationships that are consuming time and attention but are suboptimal or even hurtful. His point was, and now breaking those relationships, whether personal or professional is also a public transaction.

Thus, perhaps we are now tending not to break relationships as often, hence perhaps some aspects of life are being filled by relationships that we are not invested in, but would rather not break. With the ease of communciation and connection, personal conflicts become instantly and glaringly obvious.

Reading the article, I wonder what the dynamic is? An Indian proverb says 'to gain something, first you must lose something'. If fewer things are 'lost', then fewer things can be gained. Thus perhaps these social networks may provoke a bit of a self-alienation in favour of a suboptimal social self.

The first time people do a Facebook cull, they often find the experience to be a bit daunting at first -- 'should I really do this?' -- and then rather freeing, as their attention is no longer taken up by people that they don't genuinely care about. That's just anecdotal pub research I suppose.

The truth of the matter seems to be that one of the truest marks of friendship with someone is to end that friendship, and let them find more compatible relationships. If that kind of creative destruction is inhibited, perhaps the aforementioned self-alienation does indeed result.
posted by nickrussell at 9:39 AM on April 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's a good article, not sure why all the snarky cynicism.

Are you new to Metafilter?
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 9:52 AM on April 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Isn't it possible that the huge growth in number of people living alone has been influenced by the machinations of corporations which stand to benefit by the growth in numbers of units of consumption? More households=more sales and profits.We buy more cars, more televisions, more appliances, etc. etc.
posted by mareli at 9:52 AM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is that weird sensation when you encounter IRL acquaintances (possibly old acquaintances from college) from Facebook who don't really want to interact IRL.

Hi, there!

I'm not sure why being online friends with someone necessary implies you want to do things with them in real life, but I know plenty who share your assumption. That bubble needs to burst.

We have never been more detached from one another, or lonelier.

Cite?

In a world consumed by ever more novel modes of socializing, we have less and less actual society.

CITE?

I dunno. I feel much less lonely knowing that there are freaks like me all over the world.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:02 AM on April 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm actually loving the current situation. I get to (for all intents and purposes) live alone while easily finding out what my friends are doing without having to go over and embroil myself in anything I don't want to do (but would have to, to avoid slighting them).

If I don't want to talk to someone online, I close the browser window. If I do want to talk, I open the browser window and start typing away.
posted by Slackermagee at 10:13 AM on April 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Facebook can definitely make you feel lonelier- it's like constantly looking at other people's holiday and birthday snapshots- their happiest times posted for everyone to see. Except daily.

Now that is a fantastic point, and one thing I don't think the article addresses at all. (I read it pretty quickly.)

It's like why people get depressed at Christmas. It's not that they don't have anyone to celebrate with. It's because everyone else seems to be (or is acting so) happy. Envy and jealously drive much of our behavior. (CITE?!)

As I'm approaching my 30s I'm finding my facebook feed exclusively flooded with pictures of adorable babies, happy families and exotic locales. Maybe one or two dozen out of the 350 people I'm friends with are engaging with anything interesting or conversation-worthy in their updates.

Certainly some people think "adorable babies" are conversation worthy. (I find it interesting you don't ;) When I post an interesting link (often one of the best of MetaFilter), I'll get a few likes and no comments. When I post a picture of my daughters looking cute, I'll get 20 likes and tens of comments. *shrug*

I've had plenty of great conversations with people from high school that I never would have had without Facebook. *double shrug*

It seems like Facebook can make you lonelier the same way any sort of online addiction (gambling, porn, gaming) can. I generally think the more time you spend in front of an electronic screen, the worse you feel. You will certainly sleep worse. If you spend multiple hours on Facebook daily, you might be addicted.

I'd also like to note that the times I "feel lonely" are not much different situationally than that the times I "don't feel lonely" ... for example, a winter evening near the solstice with an early sunset and a sharp cold wind, combined with a lack of personal hydration, can make me feel like the loneliest person in the world, regardless of I'm biking home to eat dinner by myself or meet friends.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:16 AM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's ironic to find so many people disagreeing with a well argued long-form article on the disconnectedness and loneliness of online life - by spending down some of their finite time on earth posting shallow, snarky pseudonymous comments on a public web forum to be read mostly by faceless strangers

Oh, I see. So when Stephen Marche writes something on the internet, it's "well argued" and "long-form," so it's good. (You're at least right about the "long" part.) But when I write something on the internet, it's "pseudonymous" (because surely my name couldn't really be John Cohen!) and it's read by "faceless strangers." Do the readers of the Atlantic have faces whereas the readers of Metafilter don't? That's odd, especially since many of them are the same people.
posted by John Cohen at 10:17 AM on April 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


FWIW - I have met some wonderful people (a couple of whom are now genuinely close friends) because I was first acquainted with them online. I wouldn't have met these people without the social media that this article is handwringing about.

I can understand the alienation and depression one feels when one's Facebook feed is composed of all the wonderful shiny things happening to other people. But that is, as other posters have pointed out, because we tend to post shiny happy things on our Facebook feeds. It's like going on a tour of people's shiny designer kitchens or whatever - all you see is the state-of-the-art kitchen and you envy that, but you don't see the (at worst) unhappy dysfunctional family that lives there or (more likely) the family's boring day-to-day life and hardships.

I, personally, love the fact that I can access Facebook, Twitter, LiveJournal, various fansites, and of course MeFi. I think you get out of social media what you put into it. And articles bawwing about the harm social media does make me roll my eyes and say, "yeah, the ancient Greeks complained about Kids These Days." No doubt somebody complained that Kids These Days were graffiti-ing the formerly beautiful and pristine caves at Altamira and Lascaux.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:26 AM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


The film’s most indelible scene, the one that may well have earned it an Oscar, was the final, silent shot of an anomic Zuckerberg sending out a friend request to his ex-girlfriend, then waiting and clicking and waiting and clicking—a moment of superconnected loneliness preserved in amber. We have all been in that scene: transfixed by the glare of a screen, hungering for response.

+

If I don't want to talk to someone online, I close the browser window. If I do want to talk, I open the browser window and start typing away.

Here's one thought: the people who are most pissed at Facebook/social media are the ones who are getting the closed window or the rejections of friend requests (or unfriending).

These might be the sorts who, for whatever reason, don't get called out on their shit IRL, but people don't want to fucking deal with them.

Relevantly, I recently received my first Facebook friend request from someone I personally know IRL that I will reject. I'm pretty easy--I'll do it with almost anyone. But this fellow I do not like and he wasn't nice to me in the past.

I feel like I need to write to him and explain why I rejected his request (especially as many of my friends are connected with him on FB), but I ain't a gonna.

I just have a feeling that that guy may feel similarly to Mr. Marche:

We have all been in that scene: transfixed by the glare of a screen, hungering for response.

Honestly, I haven't. I think perhaps some of the "loneliness" criticized here is just disguised "disappointment" that the Internet hasn't helped me get hired/married/laid yet.

Over the past three decades, technology has delivered to us a world in which we need not be out of contact for a fraction of a moment.

He hints at a lot of things, but never gets to it. Facebook is no different than Tumblr, or Pinterest, or YouPorn. If you spend too much time surfing the Web, to the neglect of other important things in your life, you're gonna feel bad.

I also suppose part of this is a suburb thing. I have never enjoyed suburbs.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:28 AM on April 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


FWIW - I have met some wonderful people (a couple of whom are now genuinely close friends) because I was first acquainted with them online. I wouldn't have met these people without the social media that this article is handwringing about.

Really (and finally, because I'm posting too much), that's what it is: a paradigm shift. Some of us who were social losers before now have a powerful tool (writing on the Internet) that helps level the social playing field. It is not a zero-sum game, but those who've thrived on handshakes, cocktail parties, and press events are probably going to resent the new landscape.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:31 AM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Because, you see, it's "social" media, wouldn't it be ironic and contrarian if it made us lonlier [sic]??

Not so much, no.

Look -- even the studies purporting to find (and the pundit/boosters like Jarvis with a professional and/or financial stake in finding) increased 'social connection' due to digital media aren't good at describing what's lost when you move from occasional close multisensory contact to ubiquitous mediated denatured contact. The sensory deprivation that comes with CMC is a very obvious concern, unless of course you've spent some part of your life withdrawing from human contact, like (1) the people who built the Internet and (2) the tech pundits who sell the Internet as such, et al.

Facebook's design, like that of cable TV news, has evolved to give the illusion of density and substance -- the sheer quantity of information sure looks like a rich social experience, dunnit. But it isn't, because 'social' experience involves -- as it has always involved, since mammals invented the idea of 'social' those many many many years ago -- contact that's not merely imaginative but physical.

Yes, Facebook shit feels intense and powerful, and so you're tempted to think that it works like talking on the phone...but Buffy the Vampire Slayer also feels intense and powerful, so much so (to me) that Buffy seems like a 'real person' even though duh she's not...and the confusion between those two intensities is Facebook's/TV's selling point and their most dangerous feature.

I say all this as someone who as a teenager 'fell in love' with someone over a MOO. I get why Facebook feels so real. I get why people report increased social contact online. But there's good reason to believe that human beings are really bad at identifying what they need socially.

And that goes for the designers of online-media studies, as much as for Facebook users.
posted by waxbanks at 10:33 AM on April 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


The intro with the corpse being found after a year and mummified is a gripping story. The metafilter thread on that story (which I am too lame to instantly google up) was a lot more interesting than this Atlantic piece.
posted by bukvich at 10:34 AM on April 13, 2012


Here's one thought: the people who are most pissed at Facebook/social media are the ones who are getting the closed window or the rejections of friend requests (or unfriending).

Here's another thought: ad hominems are weak-ass responses to arguments -- even bad arguments!
posted by waxbanks at 10:34 AM on April 13, 2012


Needs a quick edit: Is Facebook Making Us Belabour Our Arguments?

Yes.

(Shit yeah, that'd fit in a Tweet!)
posted by gompa at 10:34 AM on April 13, 2012


Here's another thought: ad hominems are weak-ass responses to arguments -- even bad arguments!

More of a highdea than an argument, but fair enough.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:39 AM on April 13, 2012


Facebook shot my dog.
posted by doctor_negative at 10:40 AM on April 13, 2012


Facebook doesn't make me lonely. What it does, to be honest, is make me envious as hell. I can only take so many stories about promotions, new marriages, my friend's kid who was the first Kindergartener to pilot the space shuttle. It's perfectly appropriate for people to share good things going on, and I want to feel happy for them, but sometimes Facebook feels like a whole website of "people you know whose lives are working out better than yours." I know there's a lot of pain and dissapointment that doesn't get posted, but when you're going through some tough times, logging on to Facebook can be like hitting yourself in the head with a crowbar.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:40 AM on April 13, 2012 [10 favorites]


My main point would be that FB is likely making some people much lonelier than it makes others. The CMS vs. UMDC distinction is interesting, but I don't think it's that binary.

Teledildonics (will) only make things fuzzier (and buzzier).
posted by mrgrimm at 10:42 AM on April 13, 2012


"Facebook can definitely make you feel lonelier- it's like constantly looking at other people's holiday and birthday snapshots- their happiest times posted for everyone to see. Except daily."

Right. I left Facebook almost two years ago for this reason. It was making me more lonely, not less. And I've felt better since because of leaving.

Because I'm geographically isolated from most of my friends and family and more generally isolated because of my illness and introversion, I initially saw Facebook as an opportunity to remain connected to those I love and care about. And, initially, that was how I experienced it and I was glad for it.

Over time, though, the sense of feeling connected through simply knowing about people's lives diminished and was replaced by a rebound sense of being disconnected and an increasing loneliness because I wasn't actually having meaningful interaction with any of them and the contrast to their apparent social and happy lives and my own which is bereft of those things became acute. Also, a not-insignificant portion of the things I was "watching" were things that I actively dislike about those people — such as political stuff.

I don't think that you have to be isolated and lonely for this to be the affect that Facebook has on you, though that makes it much more powerful and damaging. Even if you're socially connected and content, Facebook doesn't present accurate and complete pictures of people's lives, it's much less accurate and complete than what you experience of them first-hand. It's highly censored, it's often highly idealized. And most people friend far, far more people than they actually have any true relationships with, anyway, so it's just not possible to be connected to most of those friends in real-life in principle.

I do think that this may be partly a function of the cultural newness of this kind of social-networking. There are offline examples of basically the same sort of thing, both presently and historically. One example is the club scene. People have always confused quantity for quality in forming social-ties and, in doing so, many have found that they feel less connected and happy, not more. Facebook may well become something more generally healthy and genuinely beneficial to society when people learn to use it more appropriately.

But, as for me, I'm not there any more and I almost completely don't regret it. (It's unfortunate, however, that other means of distance-communication within my friends and family have been abandoned in favor of FB and so I'm shut out of a lot of stuff that before I would have been a part of via email, or telephone.)
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:43 AM on April 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


I smell a country song being born.

To all the girls I've friended before
Whose texts came in and out my iPhone 4
I'm glad they 'liked' me most
I dedicate this post
To all the girls I've friended before

To all the girls I once sent texts
And may I say I've LOL'd with the best
For never clicking 'no'
I owe my friend count so
To all the girls I've friended before
posted by gompa at 10:45 AM on April 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Facebook doesn't make me lonely. What it does, to be honest, is make me envious as hell.

+ from FPP:

“If people are reading about lives that are much better than theirs, two things can happen,” Burke tells me. “They can feel worse about themselves, or they can feel motivated.”

There has to be a third path, and in fact, I'd say there definitely is: stop caring so much what everyone thinks about you, and get used to the fact that they mostly aren't.

Also accept that ambition can never be satiated. Don't get sad or mad; deal with it.

On preview: great points, Ivan. I don't really have to deal with friends who have offensive posts.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:47 AM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


The article mentions that people are "gathering less".

That could be true, but if so my guess would be that has a lot more to do with people having less money to spend on socializing these last few years than with Facebook.

If social media has any effect, my guess would be that it amplifies whatever sense of connection or disconnection you otherwise would have had. If you're close to a lot of people. and a lot of them use social media, those connections are more present to you in your day-to-day experience than ever. If you had shallow relationships, now you have a stronger experience of being in a crowd and still alone.
posted by philipy at 10:54 AM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder how often the snarkers on this thread feel lonely. I wonder what makes someone want to read and/or comment about an article about loneliness. I suppose there are some people with satisfying social connections just wanting to balance the score. But is a snide remark really accomplishing such a thing or does it belie something else?
posted by umamiman at 10:56 AM on April 13, 2012


It's all in how you use it.

I don't really value online interaction. I think its only purpose is to support your in-person social life. Facebook and email are great for strengthening bonds within my social groups, and also for working new people into my life. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not good at "staying in touch". Don't get me wrong, I have friends that live far away, and I see most of them at least once a year. But I basically get nothing out of online interactions. Even Metafilter is useful to me only inasmuch as it gives me a chance to practice my writing skills and pick up bits of insight and news that are good for conversation.

However, I think there are people who get a lot more out of online interaction than I do. To them, online interaction counts as actual socializing. They value their online-only relationships and think of them as real relationships. To me, this sounds intolerably depressing. It would be like replacing steak with tofu or something. But who am I to judge? If they get something out of it I don't, then more power to them.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:56 AM on April 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have found Facebook very useful in enhancing "weak tie" relationships - people you are on an acquaintance level with. It provides a very low-key, low-pressure opportunity for people to get to know each other better. Since many people check Facebook at least daily, if you're "friends" with them then you achieve an ongoing familiarity with them, learning bits and pieces about their lives that you wouldn't know otherwise, and vice versa. Then should an opportunity present itself to springboard into friendship, you can; and if you discover that you're not very compatible, you don't feel like you've gotten in too far with someone and have a potentially uncomfortable adjustment in friendship expectations on your hands.

Where I live, I find most people are quite standoffish about new people (not deliberately I don't think, just people are wrapped up in their own lives). It's been very hard to meet people and make friends for me here, simply because most people have been here for years and they already have plenty of friends - they're not actively looking to add to their circles so they don't really spend the time getting to know someone new. You can see the same people over and over again for years (I'm not kidding) practically daily, at work or in the schoolyard, and still never get past barely being acquainted. Facebook has helped a good deal with my loneliness in that regard. It's aided me in feeling connected to my neighborhood, which is important to me: people now remember me, invite me to neighborhood events, keep me in the light-gossip loop, and so on.

Conversely, where I find Facebook makes me feel more lonely is with my closer relationships - family and long-distance friends. I was reading a piece recently - I can't remember where or I'd link it - about how all this connectivity in modern life actually makes us feel worse than years ago... now that we can phone, Skype, Facebook, email, send pictures, and what have you any time we like, it is pitched to us as "it's almost like being there!"

But it *isn't* being there, and we know it, and having that almost-but-not-quite feeling all the time actually makes us more lonely rather than less. Before all this connectivity, it was rather more "out of sight, out of mind", but now that we can see our friends' daily life details, see them on Facebook and Skype, it reminds us more powerfully that we are not there with them.

Our human tendency is to be concerned with the people in front of us, interacting every day with us, and less so with people further away; but now that we have our friends online interacting (at a low level) in front of us every day, why bother to spend time talking to the actual humans surrounding us that aren't our friends? Think about it - you don't have to stand in line slightly bored anymore - before you'd pass the time of day with other people in the line, but now you whip out your smartphone and check up on your friends on Facebook. You don't have to bother to get to know your neighbors, who has time for that, when you can stay inside and talk to your friends online?

And since Facebook is so easy, but fairly shallow - a quick update, a picture posted - it ends up substituting for deeper time spent connecting (long phone conversations, long journal entries, writing emails or letters). I have many friends I used to spend hours chatting with on IM, or calling each other, and we don't do that any more; I used to keep up with friends on Livejournal but seriously, from the day I started Facebook, I stopped writing on Livejournal, because Facebook was faster. All too often my interactions with people online have become soundbites, back and forth.

The end result is that I get to "see" my friends and family every day on Facebook, but we don't spend the time really connecting any more, and I miss them more. That makes me feel lonelier.
posted by flex at 10:57 AM on April 13, 2012 [19 favorites]


First time I moved overseas (Before Facebook) I heard from my friends often. I really enjoyed writing long emails back and forth. Especially if I didn't have many local friends, I really felt in touch with most people.

I moved back, and then away again a couple of years ago. Everyone's on Facebook now. I don't hear directly from anyone anymore. Whatever they want to share is on Facebook. Other people I know who have managed to stay in regular contact with friends say they only way they've managed it is that none of their social circle is on Facebook.

Do I blame Facebook? No. But I wish things were different and I don't know how to make that so.
posted by wingless_angel at 11:03 AM on April 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


To me, this sounds intolerably depressing. It would be like replacing steak with tofu or something.

ZING! Again, not so depressing for vegetarians.

I wonder how often the snarkers on this thread feel lonely.

Every single day.

I used to keep up with friends on Livejournal but seriously, from the day I started Facebook, I stopped writing on Livejournal, because Facebook was faster.

There's something interesting, I think. Facebook, aside, there are certainly a glut of "social" sites--let's say you have active Facebook, Twitter, MetaFilter, LiveJournal, Tumblr, Pinterest, Delicious, Last.fm, YouTube, and Google+ accounts ... how can you possibly manage all of them? Then throw in e-mail, which has been more and more unmanageable for people.

How much of this "loneliness" is due to overstimulation or stress at trying to maintain an unsustainable "social communication network"?

Also, it seems like Facebook killed your LJ participation. Why is that bad/good? How does using FB instead make your participation more superficial?
posted by mrgrimm at 11:06 AM on April 13, 2012


Some of us who were social losers before now have a powerful tool (writing on the Internet) that helps level the social playing field. It is not a zero-sum game, but those who've thrived on handshakes, cocktail parties, and press events are probably going to resent the new landscape.

We've "now had" writing on the Internet for well over 20 years, we've had a popularly accessible writable Web (e.g. Geocities, Angelfire) for 17 or 18 years, with even the most hidebound "cocktail party and press event" types noticing that, "gee golly, every ad has .com in it somewhere" for 12.

I don't know about you, but I've been "here" for north of 20 years. The Internet is pretty much my home, it's my workplace, and it has been good to me and my family in so many ways. That doesn't mean I've found social interaction over the Internet to be an unalloyed good, and I reserve the right to say "yeah, some of it is not working for me in ways similar to what this author is expressing" without being lumped in with Mad Men-esque dinosaur glad-handers who don't want all the nerds for sunbeams.

The site I work for does a tidy little business catering to the cocktail party and press events types, who adore the Internet, adore social networking, and think Facebook is just ducky. They're bounding around the 'net like it's a new, low-gravity alternate dimension where they've got laser beams coming out of their eyes and they can rip dump trucks in half with their bare hands. They're crushing it dude, they're totally owning it, baby, they're fireworks. And because I know they're at conferences bounding around the same between sessions, they're living refutations of a belief I long held that nobody floating around the city tossing manhole covers like frisbees over the 'net is really like that in meatspace. Some of them pretty much are.

Any "the Internet is for introverts" reality that might ever have existed (and I knew a lot of extroverts over the 'net 20 years ago) is long gone. Not everybody lives here just yet, but we're getting there. There's certainly a big enough sample that we can account for just about all the types you'll encounter on a busy sidewalk and all the basement dwellers you'll never catch out during the day, and they're bringing their personalities along. Our collective experience of the Internet is changing as a result, for good and ill, as more personalities come into contact with it and as the ways we use it shift. Like alcohol, guns, chocolate cake, spinach, peanuts, gravity and sunshine, it's going to have different effects on different people.
posted by mph at 11:12 AM on April 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh Jesus the title of this FPP is "Bowling Alone"

Now my stupid clever joke upthread is just stupid.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:15 AM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


How does using FB instead make your participation more superficial?

I personally hardly use FB, but there is a certain "the medium is the message" aspect to any method of communication. FB pulls people to write short updates, and because what you write is broadcast to a large number of people, it also pulls you to write lowest-common-denominator messages. Even if you're talking to your best friend, it's like talking to them while hanging out with a bunch of mutual acquaintances. You're still not going to share your innermost feelings probably.

Smartphones probably haven't helped either, because again they pull towards very short messages.
posted by philipy at 11:19 AM on April 13, 2012


In 1950, less than 10 percent of American households contained only one person. By 2010, nearly 27 percent of households had just one person.

That does give me pause.

There's a significant portion of my friends list that consists of people who are lonely -- the ones whose profile pictures are of their cats, whose friends list consists primarily of family members and people who went to the same high school at the same time more than two decades ago (which is mostly how I wound up connected to these people in the first place), whose Wall is just an endless list of Farmville-clone "achievements" or quotations from self-help texts or just a relentlessly glum series of "I am sad today" status updates that lasts until you can't stand it anymore and hide them (but not defriend them, because you know they'll see that and you don't want to give them yet another reason to be just a little more sad.)

(Facebook just added a new feature expressly for that purpose. The Acquaintances list. It's for the people you don't actually want to be friends with but don't want to send them the message that you don't want to be friends with them. The existence of this feature, the fact that this kind of feature needs to exist, is really fucking depressing the more I think about it.)

Are these people lonely because of Facebook? Well, no, it's obviously not a direct A causes B thing, but -- would they be less lonely without Facebook? Maybe not. It's fake social time, which can be an impediment to actually getting out of the house and seeing people for real. And it can be a source of loneliness by comparison or reduced self esteem as Pater Aletheias and others above point out. I don't think the reverse is true: seeing lonely people or people whose lives appear worse than mine doesn't make me happier by comparison.


On the other hand there's another significant segment of that list, who I would never be able to maintain any connection to without Facebook (we were barely acquaintances in real life, or are geographically separated, or what have you) who turn out to be surprisingly interesting or share interests with me that we wouldn't have discovered otherwise, with whom I have real conversations that would not have happened in the pre-internet era. A good conversation is a good conversation, whether it's "close multisensory contact" or keyboard-mediated.

To summarize:
* Contact with sad and lonely people is depressing and enervating
* Contact with non-sad, non-lonely people can be either energizing (because social contact) or depressing (because their life sounds more interesting than yours)
* Contact with people will therefore on average be depressing, because the numbers just weigh out that way
* Facebook facilitates contact with everyone, accelerating what would have happened anyway
* Therefore everything is terrible
posted by ook at 11:22 AM on April 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, the point in the FPP link that we get to isolate ourselves as we want, yet fill in the gap there with interactions that take place at our leisure is very interesting, I think. If you wanted not to be lonely in years past, you had to go out and meet people. You had to cultivate friendships and that meant sometimes you spent time trying to make friends with people that didn't work out, which is a little awkward, and you had to spend time talking to the people around you, and you had to do things like go to cocktail parties, hold dinners - social things. You don't have to do any of those things anymore. You can stay home in your pajamas, and meet people online, and talk with just the kinds of people you like, who like the things you like, instead of making conversation with the people in actual proximity to you, who more likely had less things in common with you.

So this is great in one sense in reducing the feeling of isolation for people who were more socially anxious, who had offbeat interests, in finding people they could gel with, but in more comfortable circumstances.

But it's not so great when people don't take time any more to get to know anyone who isn't immediately useful or with an instant click to them - there's no reason to go through that uncomfortableness when everyone they like already is accessible anytime.

That is where we are disconnecting from each other. The instant-access, the never-having-to-feel-awkward connectivity is totally scratching this itch for us, the human-being-as-social-animal. But it can't substitute for face-to-face interaction, and we lose the abilities to relate to each other IRL. It's kind of like junk food - exciting and feels satisfying, but really isn't.

On preview:
Also, it seems like Facebook killed your LJ participation. Why is that bad/good? How does using FB instead make your participation more superficial?

I would write longer journal entries about what was going on in my life (and about the kids) for friends and family to keep up with us, people would comment on it, therefore there's that interaction going on. It was nice because then I could keep up with a group of people without repeating the same stories over and over on the phone or what have you. The LJ journal had value in the same way a paper journal would - I could go back years later and read about what my family was doing at that point in time and so on. My oldest son loves hearing about what he was doing as a baby, and I can remember the stuff he was doing, because I wrote it down.

Once everyone was on Facebook, people read my longer entries less, commented less, stopped writing their own pieces for me to read. Once I joined them on Facebook, I stopped writing because if I had a little thing to tell everyone, some cute thing the kids did, I could just broadcast it. But Facebook doesn't lend itself to rumination at all, so I don't write about things I'm thinking on Facebook. And now I don't have a record to go back and read, and remember, since it's not a journal, it's just little snips here and there - and mostly "positive" as people are mentioning above, because no one wants to be too negative on Facebook, that's boring and annoying, etc. (All the little things I remember about my oldest son going through baby and toddler years, I don't have nearly the same amount of memories for the younger kids, and that is sad, for me.)

The time thing is so on-point - Metafilter is the only place I do any long-form writing anymore, and it's very valuable to me because of that, but yes, it takes time. And MeFi is my "extra time" - I only come here once I'm done keeping up with email & checking Facebook. I've always spent a lot of time in IRC over the past decade-plus (coping with loneliness and isolation) and I can't even manage that anymore. I couldn't possibly add a Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter, etc. on top of all this - I already feel like I spend way more time interacting with people online than IRL (which I would prefer more of).
posted by flex at 11:25 AM on April 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I got on FB to continue being part of my scene, but FB shows me a scene that is no longer mine or one that I don't much want to take part in any more. When I am out and about IRL, I can delude myself as to the state of things, but the overall snapshot of my milieu that FB provides me just points up the fact that I am growing quite old. Thankfully it also provides me with lots of cautionary examples of how one might not do that gracefully.
posted by bonefish at 12:16 PM on April 13, 2012


hopefully this isn't a derail, but my biggest annoyance with facebook is the way it's used to market in this sneaky "oh but we're just shooting the shit as your friends!" way. like the person upthread who mentioned they had a lot of friends for a while because their company wanted them to shill stuff by sharing articles about it or whatnot. it's thinly veiled enough to be laughable most of the time, granted, but it makes me nuts. it's the fakeness and simulacra-y marketing of bonding that i hate. and this is not facebook's domain alone, granted. but ugh.
posted by ifjuly at 12:19 PM on April 13, 2012


I wonder how often the snarkers on this thread feel lonely. I wonder what makes someone want to read and/or comment about an article about loneliness. I suppose there are some people with satisfying social connections just wanting to balance the score. But is a snide remark really accomplishing such a thing or does it belie something else?
I'm sure that even people with vibrant, healthy real-world social lives feel lonely sometimes, but it's not Facebook's fault, nor is it Facebook's fault that so few people get involved in their communities by joining fraternal organizations/social clubs/church groups/the PTA any more... real-world community interaction was on the decline for decades prior to Facebook's ascendency.

Thanks to any number of factors (People staying home to watch television, people moving to the suburbs, longer commutes, the 40 hour work week creeping up to the 50-60 hour work week, shuttling kids to more and more after-school activities) people just don't engage casually the way they used to. Shallow relationships on Facebook are a symptom, not a cause.
posted by usonian at 12:26 PM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


waxbanks - But there's good reason to believe that human beings are really bad at identifying what they need socially.

Is there? I'd be interested in reading up on that, if you can recommend something.
posted by metaBugs at 12:29 PM on April 13, 2012


During the Fall of 2010, I was at a low point. My job had turned from the best gig EVAR into being the dog my new boss liked to kick around. I hadn't dated in ages and despaired of ever finding someone. The Autumn rains had kicked in with a vengeance and I found myself doing crazy shit like buying hats that obscured my face so I could avoid people. Fueling this fire was Facebook. I'd look at my "friends" and wonder what was wrong with me. They were falling in love, climbing mountains, hanging at the bar, catching a huge fish, showing off their kids, throwing parties, and generally living la vida loca and I was just a fucking loser in comparison.

In a fit of self-loathing, I erased my Facebook account. What started as a rash action turned into one of the best decisions I could have made. Without other people to compare myself to, I started to compare me WITH ME and, when I did things that were a challenge, I felt proud of myself instead of shitting on my confidence by citing someone I knew who had done it bigger and better already.

A year later, I was a whole new person. My work still sucked but I wasn't so damned busy kicking my own ass. My confidence boost allowed me to like myself again, which led to me being confident enough to find someone nice to date who, in turn, made me feel even better about life. Also, I started challenging myself again to try things that were new to me, like learning to ski.

I have a Facebook account, but only for my radio show and, even at that, I rarely visit. I avoid it for the same reason I got rid of my TV at 19, it helps me be a better person and to like myself more. So, while Facebook may be awesome for other people, I know that social media can be a dark path for me.
posted by Foam Pants at 12:30 PM on April 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


The internet and social media are probably here to stay

Nothing is here to stay.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 12:40 PM on April 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can't speak for anyone else, but Facebook improved my social life by about 300%. I hate the phone and don't like to call people - but I can message them or invite them to an event without feeling excessively obtrusive.

As for the feeling that other people are living more interesting lives than me - meh, I'm used to that. I'm employed, in good health, and have a comfortable roof over my head, so that puts me ahead of about 95% of the planet right there.
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 12:45 PM on April 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


*hugs metafilter*
posted by clvrmnky at 12:49 PM on April 13, 2012


I recently installed Draw Something on my phone, and started a few games via Facebook login. One of those people engaged, and when their picture was drawn on the screen, it was (first) a handwritten note thanking me for a note I'd sent through Facebook several days before, and then that was erased and replaced with the drawing I needed to guess.

I don't know if Facebook is making us lonely, but that particular method of saying "thank you" was charming and unexpected, and was enabled by Facebook, so I personally am thinking that it has improved my social life an eense.
posted by davejay at 1:37 PM on April 13, 2012


I only have a facebook cause I have an ex girlfriend and I need her to know I'm doing better than she is...
posted by muscleswebsites at 1:43 PM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


The depressing thing about Facebook was the reaction of some of my friends when I decided to delete my account. One said it was like I was dead and two others - one of whom I considered a very close friend - got very angry and told me they considered my decision to leave a decision to leave them because I must not be interested in their lives any longer.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:37 PM on April 13, 2012


Every time I see a headline that asks "Does [X] make us [Y]?" I remember my father's go-to response to any question he didn't want/know how to answer:

"Does the Pope wear pantyhose?"

I still don't know, Dad. I still don't know.
posted by emjaybee at 2:44 PM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't use Facebook, but I'm glad it exists. All the people I can't stand spend all their time there and leave me alone. It's awesome.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:08 PM on April 13, 2012


I was okay until I read this...

Self-invention is only half of the American story, however. The drive for isolation has always been in tension with the impulse to cluster in communities that cling and suffocate.

...and realized that the author has posted this article from an alternate universe with no hippies. Therefore his conclusions are not valid.
posted by storybored at 9:51 PM on April 13, 2012


Facebook, of course, puts the pursuit of happiness front and center in our digital life.

Yes, of course. Wait, what the fuck does that even mean?
posted by desuetude at 9:55 PM on April 13, 2012


Facebook has improved my local IRL interactions, but worsened my long-distance interactions.

As someone mentioned upthread, Facebook is great for turning acquaintances into friends and it's great for arranging to meet up with people. Seeing little tidbits of other peoples' lives on their statuses makes for great conversation starters. I've gone to parties where I don't even know the organizer's contact info other than Facebook, and I wouldn't have gotten invited otherwise, but managed to form proper relationships with people I met there. It's great in that respect - it opens up more opportunities for real-life interaction.

But as my Facebook circle continues to splinter into different geographic groups: People from my hometown, people from college, people from my study abroad, people from my MA course, people in the city I live now... It's the people far away who I have trouble connecting with. The information broadcasted to everyone at once has taken the place of actual communication and connection. There isn't much motivation to call/email someone to catch up, when you already know what's been going on in their life, even though they haven't actually told you. It becomes very passive.
posted by Gordafarin at 1:03 AM on April 14, 2012


I've found that FB has changed some people, and not for good. Some people close to me, and family members even, were always "pleasers," whose behavior was always motivated by the desire to get other's approval. These people are FB-obsessed because FB plays into this this in an unprecedented way. They feed their pleaser-addiction 24/7. I don't play those games, online or off, so my irritation has increased exponentially when I see how FB has turned them into slavering idiots who literally cannot go 10 seconds without counting their "Likes" and getting more "friends." Playing for the room, indeed. Nothing is worth doing unless it garners back-pats and smileys and praise from their FB audience. They post a good morning and good night every day, god forbid anyone get "mad" at them.

I was chided recently for not commenting on some "achievement."

"I LIVE WITH YOU." I replied. "DID YOU FORGET THAT YOU CAN MOVE AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER, OPEN YOUR MOUTH AND TALK TO ME?"

"Yeah, but I want everyone else to hear what you have to say."

No, you don't.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 4:12 AM on April 14, 2012


I teach high school and I can't not overstate the amount of times a day I hear the words "status, tag, like, comment and Facebook." I've been teaching ten years and there are two social network trends that I've noticed within the past roughly two school years. I'm definitely not the only person who has noticed this stuff, but I have seen real changes in how young people interact with one another--some good, some not-so-good.

First, kids don't get a break from one another. Recently, a student was being bullied by a group of her "friends." I was talking to her parent about the relief her daughter might get from being on spring break and was told that there is no break anymore. The bullying continues after school, on the weekends, over spring break and likely over summer vacation as well. Poor kids.

Second, at parent teacher conferences I'd say 75% of parents brought up Facebook. One parent has 3 kids in their late 20s/early 30s and were all teenagers well before social networking was as robust as today. The oldest kids went out, wanted to take the car, talked on the phone, had friends over, etc. Her 18 year old daughter (who is "popular" in my class, is well liked, has friends with whom she chats, I see her in the halls with friends) doesn't go out on the weekends. She sits at home and socializes on Facebook and through text messaging. Her parent said how different it is having a teenager compared to just 10 years ago.

Since many of us remember life before social networking, it'll be interesting to see what friendship (and the concept of friendship) will look like to a generation that has grown up with Facebook.
posted by Hop123 at 7:06 AM on April 14, 2012


Thoughtful and thought provoking article - thanks for posting it.
posted by latkes at 7:31 AM on April 14, 2012


nor is it Facebook's fault that so few people get involved in their communities by joining fraternal organizations/social clubs/church groups/the PTA any more... real-world community interaction was on the decline for decades prior to Facebook's ascendency.

But see, this is just not true. Americans have a LOT of "real-world" community interaction:
All told, 75% of Americans are active in one kind of group or another. Internet and cell phone owners are more likely than non-technology users to be active in groups. Fully 80% of internet users are active in one kind of group or another, compared with 56% of non-internet users; and 86% of cell owners are active in a group, compared with 62% of non-cell owners.
For all the cherry-picked studies that this article cites, there are many, many others that show a very different picture. Certainly our lives are being affected by Facebook and other new technologies, but it is a far more complicated process than Facebook>Loneliness>Die mummified in your apartment.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 9:09 PM on April 14, 2012


I've found that FB has changed some people, and not for good. Some people close to me, and family members even, were always "pleasers," whose behavior was always motivated by the desire to get other's approval.

So, it really didn't change the people. Facebook just gives them an easier way to invade your mental space with irritatingly self-indulgent behavior. I hate that stuff too, but when I think back, I've gotta say that those types have always been "into" something that gives them an excuse to exhaust people with their need for validation.

Seems like shooting the messenger to blame Facebook, though. Hell, it's easier to disregard, in a way -- hiding their feed and completely ignoring their comments (or even deleting them, oh yes I have) takes way less energy than trying to politely change the subject at the dinner table.

"Yeah, but I want everyone else to hear what you have to say."

"Go tell them, then." [wait for confused expression to resolve into sputtering]

Yeah, I know, can of worms. Same with the totally appropriate response of "GTFOHWTBS." But oh my god, that's hilariously appalling.
posted by desuetude at 8:40 AM on April 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


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